The final day of the non-waiver trade period is here, and Will Smith is headed for San Francisco, traded for two of the Giants top prospects over their last two seasons.
The Milwaukee Brewers have officially pulled attention away from the Jonathan Lucroy/Indians trade-that-never-was by shipping Will Smith to the San Francisco Giants for catcher Andrew Susac and RHP prospect Phil Bickford.
This is an incredible haul for the Brewers, who gain the Giants’ top prospect from 2015 (Susac, before he lost prospect status), and one of the front-runners for the team’s top prospect in 2016 (Bickford).
It was speculated early on, but after the Aroldis Chapman trade, it became clear that reliever’s trade values were sky-high in 2016, but this haul is incredibly impressive nonetheless.
As always, let’s begin with the senior member of the trade, Andrew Susac. He is 26 year old, under team control until 2021, and has seen some time in the Big Leagues behind Buster Posey. He was around a league average hitter between 2014-15, but has spent all of 2016 in the Giants’ minor league system, slashing .265/.338/.451 with 8 homers in 234 plate appearances in AAA.
This is still just 6% above league average (106 wRC+) in the run-friendly Pacific Coast League, but Susac ticks all the boxes as a catcher, with fringe-average to average marks for his hit tool, average power, average defense, and an above-average arm.
All of this combines to give Susac the look of an everyday starter for the rebuilding Brewers, whether or not Lucroy is ultimately traded today.
Similar to the Aaron Hill trade three weeks ago, this trade features a near MLB ready (or in this case entirely ready) older prospect and a considerably younger, projection-based prospect.
The latter, in this case, is 21-year-old Phil Bickford, the Giants first round pick in 2015. Despite just over 100 career minor league innings pitched, Bickford has already made his way up to High-A, where continues to perform.
At every level of the minors thus far, Bickford has struck out more than a batter per inning, while keeping his walks in check, though scouts still question his command. In 17 starts between Low- and High-A in 2016, Bickford owns a 2.71 ERA with a 105:27 K:BB ratio in 93 innings. The righty stands at 6’4″ and has a shot at developing three Big League pitches.
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Currently, Bickford seems to throw two fastballs, touching the high 90s with a straighter fastball and seeing excellent run and sink on a low-to-mid 90s version of the pitch. According to most sources he struggles with his secondary pitches, though his slider is seen as plus and his changeup has some sink and deception.
As is often the case with young pitching talent, scouts are divided on the future of Bickford, with some seeing as him bullpen-bound, while others are more optimistic about his developing pitches.
For his part, Will Smith ends his Brewers career with 199 strikeouts in 151 innings pitched and a 3.28 ERA. He was well-known among fans for throwing the #sliderofdeath, and he was no doubt valuable to the Brewers as a reliever and general goofball. Hopefully his paths again cross with his best bud, Jeremy Jeffress.
As a final note, one of the most remarkable things about this trade, if you are interested in trade trees like I am, is the following: